Chapter IV.—Of Serapion the Deacon on whose Account John becomes Odious to his Clergy.
Being such in disposition and manners, and promoted to the episcopacy, John was led to conduct himself toward his clergy with more than proper superciliousness, designing to correct the morals of the clergy under him. Having thus chafed the temper of the ecclesiastics, he was disliked by them; and so many of them stood aloof from him as a passionate man, and others became his bitter enemies. Serapion, a deacon of his retinue, led him to alienate their minds still more from him; and once in presence of the whole assembled clergy he cried out with a loud voice to the bishop—You will never be able to govern these men, my lord, unless you drive them all with a rod. This speech of his excited a general feeling of animosity against the bishop; the bishop also not long after expelled many of them from the church, some for one cause, and some for another. And, as it usually happens when persons in office adopt such violent measures, those who were thus expelled by him formed combinations and inveighed against him to the people. What contributed greatly to gain credence for these complaints was the fact that the bishop was not willing to eat with any one else, and never accepted an invitation to a p. 140 feast. On account of this the plot against him became widespread. His reasons for not eating with others no one knew with any certainty, 840 but some persons in justification of his conduct state that he had a very delicate stomach, and weak digestion, which obliged him to be careful in his diet, and therefore he ate alone; while others thought this was due to his rigid and habitual abstinence. Whatever the real motive may have been, the circumstance itself contributed not a little to the grounds of accusation by his calumniators. The people nevertheless continued to regard him with love and veneration, on account of his valuable discourses in the church, and therefore those who sought to traduce him, only brought themselves into contempt. How eloquent, convincing, and persuasive his sermons were, both those which were published by himself, and such as were noted down by short-hand writers as he delivered them, why should we stay to declare? Those who desire to form an adequate idea of them, must read for themselves, and will thereby derive both pleasure and profit.
These reasons are given by Palladius as follows: He was accustomed to eat alone, as I partially know, for these reasons: first, he drank no wine…secondly, his stomach was, on account of certain infirmities, irregular, so that often the food prepared for him was repugnant, and other food not put before him was desired. Again he at times neglected to eat, lengthening out his meal until evening, sometimes being absorbed in ecclesiastical cares and sometimes in contemplation;…but it is a custom with table companions if we do not relish the same articles of food which they do, or laugh at insignificant witticisms…to make this an occasion of ill-speech. Palladius, de Vita S. Joannis, 12.